How is cachaça made?

How is cachaça made?

It would be nice to say that I alone, as a gringo, have figured out the way that cachaça is made. But since it’s been produced for hundreds of years, there are plenty of sources that have outlined the process in a clear, succinct, and understandable way. Below, I have translated the process as described on the website Mapa da Cachaça. It’s a great resource for understanding cachaça, if you can speak Portuguese. If you can’t, you can rely on this handy translation:

Harvesting the sugar cane

  • Sugar cane is a tropical plant that grows well at temperatures between 18ºC to 35º

  • Harvesting can be from May until December.

  • One ton of sugarcane results in 130 liters of cachaça.

Milling the cane

  • Sugarcane juice is extracted from sugarcane within the first 24-30 hours after harvest.

  • The pulp is separated from the sugarcane juice.

  • Some producers still use water power to operate the mill.

Filtering the sugarcane juice

  • After extraction, the juice is filtered through a sieve and decanted

Sucrose reduction

  • Producers add water to the sugarcane juice to reduce the sucrose content.

  • Some producers pasteurize sugarcane juice before this process.


  • The fermentation lasts between 14 and 24 hours.

  • The ideal temperature during fermentation ranges from 28ºC to 32ºC.

  • Different types of yeast can be used during fermentation, including: wild, CA-11, CANAMAX, CAT-1, BG-1 or even those selected from the cane field itself.

  • Some artisanal producers use the so-called “Yeast Yeast” to catalyze the fermentation process.

  • Once the sugar in the juice has been cleared, the product has 7-9% alcohol.


  • Stills of different shapes, sizes, volumes and materials can be used to distill cane wine.

  • Some producers use sugarcane waste to feed the fire that heats the still (sustainable production).

  • The heating of the still can be done directly or indirectly. (direct fire in the pan or steam heating)

  • The distillation of industrial cachaça is done in stainless steel columns, while artisanal production is done in copper stills. The copper present in the stills acts to reduce the content of sulfur compounds in the cachaça, eliminating the presence of an unpleasant rotten egg odor.

  • During distillation in handcrafted stills what are called “the head”, “heart” and “syrup” are separated. The head and syrup are discarded, while the heart is left, which is ideal for consumption.

Storing and Aging

  • Cachaça can be stored in stainless steel vats before bottling.

  • Cachaça can also be stored or aged in wooden barrels. Some woods used for barrel production are: oak, amburana, balsa, grápia, garapeira, freijó, “peanut”, jequitibá, jatobá, and chestnut.

  • To be called aged, cachaça must remain in barrels up to 700L for at least 1 year.

  • Different woods bring different colors, aromas and flavors.

  • Aging adds commercial value to the distillate.

  • Some regions are known for using a specific type of wood in the barrels that age cachaca. As the use of freijó in Brejo Paraibano (PA) and balm in Salinas (MG).


  • Cachaça that has been stored in stainless steel wooden barrels can be diluted and standardized for bottling.

  • To be called cachaça the alcohol content of sugarcane brrandy must be between 38% and 48%

  • Artisanal producers bottle by hand, while larger companies have a mechanized process

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